SXSW 2016 | 2015
| 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012
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The Vryll Society might just be one of Liverpool’s best-kept psychedelic secrets, although judging by the attention they’ve garnered from the likes of BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, this could be about to change. The band has released a bunch of singles over the past couple of years, including the hypnotic ‘A Perfect Rhythm’ out late last year. With their debut album expected this year, things are likely to change quickly for them in 2017.
‘Sacred Flight’ is the latest single from the band; released in late January, it’s the lead single from their upcoming debut. The tune is a track full of movement that is driven along with lead singer Mike Ellis’ entrancing, laid-back vocals. Ellis reminds me of fellow psychedelic rock lead singer Harry Koisser of Peace. Having just made that comparison however, the track has got something about it that makes it feel exciting and unique. It feels experimental without being too out and feeling inaccessible to someone that isn’t a diehard fan of the psych rock genre. It’s always great to hear music from a band that is trying to do something outside of the mainstream, instead of following in the footsteps of other bands who have made it big.
The song opens with a gently warbling guitar and fluid electronic sounds, before picking up with the introduction of Ellis’ voice and an inundation of synth babbling. Lyrics “please come back / soon come back / I felt the spirit go”, speaks to the transcendental and metaphysical nature of what I imagine the sacred flight to mean: some sort of out of body experience or spiritual journey (“leave this place on a sacred flight”). Ellis describes the track as a “motoric journey into cosmic space jolting atoms of sound from one galaxy to another before finally exploding into a jewel box of guitar frenzied litany”, which probably sums it up better than I ever could!
‘Sacred Flight’ is the latest single from Liverpool psych rock band The Vryll Society, out now on Deltasonic Records. Having previously supporting Blossoms, and appearing a number of festivals in 2016, their live shows are touted to be quite something. The Vryll Society will appear at SXSW 2017 in Austin this March, before returning to the UK for a few dates. Check out their full schedule here.
Last Wednesday evening saw performances from nominees of the RTÉ Choice Music Prize in the candle-lit venue the Workman’s Club in Dublin city centre. Hosted by Irish musician and radio presenter/producer Cormac Battle, the evening started with two nominees for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Irish Song of the Year, followed by two of the acts shortlisted for Irish Album of the Year.
Ten acts have been shortlisted for the Irish Song of the Year, including James Vincent McMorrow and ex-One Direction-er Niall Horan. On Wednesday we saw performances from Heroes in Hiding and Raglans, both based in Dublin and the only two acts nominated for this award who have self-released their singles. Up first were folk-rock quartet Heroes in Hiding, who revealed during a brief pre-performance interview with Battle that they had never won or been nominated for an award.
However, within 30 seconds or so of the band playing their nominated track ‘Hospital’, it became pretty clear why they are now getting this kind of recognition conferred by the Choice Music Prize. ‘Hospital’ is a catchy track, featuring seemingly medical-inspired percussive sounds and upbeat guitars and drums. It’s little less folky than some of the band’s other stuff but is definitely a track you can dance or bob your head along to. The chorus, featuring vocalist Joe Carroll crowing “next thing I knew / I was in the hospital”, recalls a real near death experience of Carroll’s in which he remembers very little of the incident, but after which he woke up in a hospital bed.
The band followed this up with ‘Beer’, for which Carroll donned an acoustic guitar. Bassist Liam McCabe took the lead vocals on this track, which started out much more mellow and laid back than ‘Hospital’ before building to an early Mumford and Sons-esque climax (sans banjo) that literally made the room shake.
Next up was Raglans, who thanked their manager and revealed that it was their second time playing The Workman’s Club. Lead singer Stephen Kelly’s stage presence was everything you could want from a ballsy lead singer. He has a swagger and laid back confidence, joking “if you feel like voting for us: thank you. If you don’t… f**k you”. They started with ‘House Where I Was Born’, which isn’t the track that is up for nomination but is a solid track nonetheless; it features on their ‘Again & Again EP’. With edgy guitars and intense drums aplenty, this is as authentic rock ‘n’ roll as you’ve ever heard. Kelly’s Irish accent doesn’t come across when he singing and at times, the band actually reminded me of early Arctic Monkeys, in the rough and ready, yet great sound of their music. Nominated track ‘Who Knows’ came next: high in energy, it engaged the crowd most out of all the acts we saw that evening. Commanding the stage with growing indie guitar hooks and a hammering drumbeat, the band looked to be in their element and enjoying their moment in the spotlight being nominated for the Choice Music Prize.
Following a break, it was time for a pair of the Irish Album of the Year nominees to take to the stage. Bantum is an electronic act originally from Cork who appeared onstage armed only with a guitar and a laptop. He jokingly commented that he would get himself a new guitar if he won the prize money. Pretty different in style to previous two acts, Bantum is synth heavy, and track ‘Take It’ features ghostly vocals from Loah, whose voice is reminiscent of the xx’s Romy Madley-Croft. [Loah appeared at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 last October and is scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017. – Ed.] It’s the kind of chilled out dance track that would be fitting at a festival as the sun is beginning to set and people are in between the highs of the morning and getting their second wind just in time for the evening acts. didn’t catch the name of the second track, but it carried an equally atmospheric and laid-back essence. Whilst I really enjoyed Bantum, The Workman’s Club didn’t seem like the best setting for the performance, and his sound didn’t quite seem to engage the crowd as well as other acts. Maybe this was because the event was on a mid-week evening? However, Bantum definitely has an easy-going ambient sound that would work better in a club at the weekend, or a summer festival.
The final act of the evening was indie duo We Cut Corners. Both members are teachers and they stood together onstage with their acoustic guitars. Both John Duignan and Conall Ó Breacháin have high, clear and bright singing voices, one complimenting the other. They started with ‘Reluctant Recluse’, a smoky, soft acoustic track, featuring some nimble wordplay (“I was a reckless child / now I’m a childless wreck”), and a wholly passionate performance. This track appears on ‘The Cadences of Others’, the album for which the band is nominated. Even while simply performed with just a pair of melancholic acoustic guitars, the delivery of ‘Reluctant Recluse’ on this night conveyed a whole melting pot of emotions, making the track a standout.
The second and final song from We Cut Corners was ‘Of Whatever’. Despite the quiet nature of the track, the pair were able to keep the rapt attention of the crowd, the crystalline vocals and emotive lyrics mesmerising. Lyrics like “but young love is reckless / leaves you gasping and breathless” and “a wave of whatever / is sweeping the nation” cemented this for me as being a genuinely beautiful track, making me think of the act as an Irish male First Aid Kit.
All in all, it was a fantastic night and I was glad to have seen all four acts perform, each bringing something different to the table. Votes can now be cast by the public for both the RTÉ Choice Music Prize Irish Song of the Year and of the Irish Album of the Year. The winners will be announced at a live event on Thursday, the 9th of March, at Dublin Vicar Street.
‘Lemon Memory’ is the second album from Leeds-grown indie surf rockers Menace Beach and is the follow up to their 2015 debut ‘Ratworld’. Although the album was recorded in Sheffield, the songs were actually written in Ibiza, which you wouldn’t be able to guess considering the edgy rock flavour to the album. The band is fronted by Ryan Needham, formerly of Komakino, and Liza Violet, also of Department M. Truly a product of Yorkshire, the current line-up also includes Nestor Matthews (Sky Larkin), Matt Spalding (You Animals) and Nick Chantler (Seize the Chair). It’s an album that feels like a bit of an experiment. The tempo and guitars are dialled up more on some tracks than others. There’s also an occasional use of subtle industrial-esque synth distortion on some tracks, while others have a heavier, punchier attitude.
Standout ‘Maybe We’ll Drown’ is the second song on the album and sees Violet take the vocals front and centre. It’s easy to see why this was released as a single, and the thrumming guitar and Violet’s voice is reminiscent of Emily Haines of Metric. Featuring ghostly synth sounds contrasting with Violet’s soft vocals that are joined by Needham’s distorted voice in the chorus, the track has a spooky quality that draws you in. Like ‘Maybe We’ll Drown’, ‘Watch Me Boil’ features both Needham and Violet singing together. There’s something very special when the two voices join in song as the pair croon “kick me on the fire / you’ll only make me higher” repeatedly over a sluggish guitar and drum rhythm.
There’s also something pretty catchy about ‘Suck It Out’, with Needham singing the title of the track over and over in the chorus. It’s a hazy track, with indistinct guitars and a steady drumbeat marching away in the background. Sounding like he’s far away on the track, Needham’s voice almost blurs together with the whirring guitars at times, whereas at others, the hissing guitar hook plays like an emergency siren.
The album plays out to the gentle and haunting ‘Hexbreaker II’, with Violet softly crooning on the track over a steady drum and guitar giving just a touch of feedback. It’s an eerie track that ties up the loose ends of the album, and provides a nod to the supposed curse that has been placed on the house of Violet and Needham. Spooky and pared back, the song feels like a gentle and subdued conclusion to an album that is at times a fuzzy, distorted experiment, and at others a homage to classic indie rock ‘n’ roll.
Having said that, I do feel like there’s something left to be desired on the album – not all of the tracks feel cohesive and some definitely stand out more than others. I would have liked to hear more of Violet and Needham singing together, as the tracks on which the two voices appear together feel the most rounded and memorable. But all in all it’s definitely not dull, and is worth a listen if indie surf rock is your bag.
Menace Beach’s second album ‘Lemon Memory’ is out now on Memphis Industries. They will begin a tour of the UK on the 31st of this month, which continues through February. The band are also scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017 in Austin in March. For more of TGTF’s coverage on the band, follow this link.
I confess that until recently, I’d never heard of The Blue Aeroplanes. However, after reading up on the Bristolian band’s history and influence, as well as the work of its various members, it’s pretty clear they’re connected in some way to a wide range of artists that I’ve been listening to for a long time. From ex-members working with the likes of Placebo and Massive Attack, to reportedly being the best band that Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield has seen live, it feels like The Blue Aeroplanes have, whilst remaining relatively underground, permeated the layers of music history.
The Blue Aeroplanes haven’t released an album in 6 years, since ‘Anti-Gravity’ in 2011. Bearing in mind their first studio album came out in 1984, it’s quite an impressive feat in itself that they’re putting out new material after all this time. That’s even before you consider the band’s incredible history. The Blue Aeroplanes have released almost 12 studio albums across 4 decades and have had a dizzying history of band members over the years. The band’s current lineup also consists of long-serving drummer John Langley, Gerard Starkie, Sharp (bass), Bec Jevons (guitar/vocals) and Mike Youe (guitar).
Their latest, ‘Welcome, Stranger!’, was just released last Friday through Art Star and a PledgeMusic campaign. The album has an old school feel to it, particularly in the edgy drawl of guitars and lead singer Gerard Langley’s distinctive smoky vocals evocative of ‘90s shoegaze. This is a rather wonderful and eclectic mix of subdued indie upbeat rock with Sprechgesang. I can’t tell if I think it’s brilliant or just a bit mad, although I guess there’s not reason why it can’t be both.
Tracks such as ‘Here is the Heart of All Wild Things’, Poetland’, ‘Retro Moon’ and ‘Nothing Will Ever Happen in the Future’ feature Gerard Langley speak-singing over the track, pulling it off with a biting poetic flair. In the latter, he speaks over a gently twanging guitar during the verses, before singing “we want to be wanted / we need to be needed / we love to be loved” during the chorus. I’d argue this is more a pithy comment on celebrity culture than a personal confession. On ‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’, which opens up to a steadily beating drum before a shoegaze-esque guitar breaks in, Langley and co. repeatedly sing out the title of the track. It even features Langley imitating a crow in a strained squawk. This one is a must listen.
A bit like ‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’, ‘Elvis Festival’ is brilliantly strange: “You sing badly / but no one cares / you are Elvis”. Other lyrics from it made me laugh out loud at first (“his wife sewed on the sequins / but he made the cape himself”), but then I couldn’t stop playing it for the simple guitar riff and drum beat and brilliantly utilised cowbell that had me dancing along, wishing I was at a festival. ‘Skin’ is a little more upbeat, a diversion from other tracks on the album. Not only does it feature vocals from Bec Jevons (also of IDestroy), but it’s also a straight-to-the-point, fast-paced track. It’s an interesting contrast to the other obscure tracks on the album. Jevons sings, “this is my skin and I welcome you in”, with skin being the central focus of connecting to someone else, not only in tactile terms, but the idea of letting someone into your skin and seeing the world the way that you might see it.
Overall, it’s an interesting and exciting listen and deserves to be properly heard to appreciate the songs’ witty wordplay. Its timeless quality makes the LP sound like it could have been produced any time over the past couple of decades. Despite the fact that I found it an enjoyable listen, it’s unlikely to remove the band from their underground cult status and into the mainstream. Having said that, from what I’ve read of the band so far, it doesn’t seem like that’s likely to be their goal. ‘Welcome, Stranger!’ feels more like the work of a band that is making music for the joy of it rather than for fame or notoriety. And it’s sure to be an album that will please the existing fans that have been waiting patiently for new material.
The Blue Aeroplanes’ latest album ‘Welcome, Stranger!’, out now on Art Star, definitely deserves a listen, if you’re not already a fan. The band are in the midst of a UK tour this month; check out the UK dates listed on their official Web site. The bits we have here on TGTF on the band are back here in our archive.
Indie rockers The Big Moon have had a pretty busy 2016. Aside from hitting a bunch of festivals including The Great Escape and releasing a bunch of singles, they also found time to record their debut album, ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’. Ahead of its release on the 7th of April 2017, the female foursome have shared single ‘Formidable’. The song received air time on Radio 1 as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World: a statement that I’m not really going to try and disagree with. ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ was recorded in London, and in addition to ‘Formidable’, it will feature a re-recorded version of previously revealed track ‘Sucker’, as well as singles Cupid’ and ‘Silent Movie Susie’ released earlier this year.
I’ve been a fan of The Big Moon for some time now, ever since I got to write a little about them ahead of their appearance at SXSW 2016, and their latest release doesn’t change that. ‘Formidable’ burns softly, with the simple yet heartfelt chorus “I am not invisible / I’m on your side / I’ll be formidable” packing a punch like a confident mantra. Other lyrics,like “did she make you swallow all your pride?/ Does the love still shiver down your spine?” are a testament to the seriously good songwriting.
In fitting with the band’s indie grunge sound, ‘Formidable’ is slow in tempo and layered with cagey drums, distorted guitars and lead singer Juliette Jackson’s full-on vocals. It starts out pretty mellow, before picking up the pace just a little as the chorus kicks in, and again when Jackson yells out ,“you let me see your battle scars!” It’s altogether a great track and well worth a listen if you’re a fan of edgy indie rock.
The Big Moon have been announced as one of the first acts to appear at next year’s Live at Leeds 2017. They have a few dates between now and next April in America and the UK, if you want to check them out live. Their debut album ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ will be released on StarTime International / Columbia Records. To read my introduction to the band in the context of SXSW 2016, go here.
Aussie singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin, according to her Web site, found inspiration at an early age in the shape of Britney Spears, something I’m sure plenty of fellow ‘90s-born folk can relate to. This interest led to Jacklin taking singing lessons in her hometown of Blue Mountains – if you Google the place, it appears to be set in a landscape just as brilliant as the name suggests – before her interests moved on to Avril Lavigne and the edgier Evanescence. She went on to form a band with an old friend and initially as the singer, but then went on to write and play guitar too.
It’s always incredible to hear of people that work seemingly normal day jobs, and manage to create stirring and out of the ordinary music and art in their spare time. ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ is the debut album from Jacklin, which she wrote whilst she was working in a factory. Recorded at Sitting Room Studios in New Zealand, the ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ is a foray into the folksy and fanciful and is jam-packed with evocative and imaginative lyrics. It doesn’t actually sit comfortably into any one genre: it’s more of a melting pot of charming country rhythms, folksy storytelling and moments of bluesy indie rock.
Single ‘Pool Party’ opens with “I was shorter than my dad’s dining table / you were taller than my bedroom doorframe”. It’s just one of the tracks on the album that uses words to create quirky and playful imagery, yet is laced with a bittersweet kind of nostalgia. The rhythm of the track is slow and soulful, with old-sounding rumbles of bass and sharp drumbeats, tied together with a guitar that rolls along like it’s being played in a small town full of chequered shirt-wearing locals.
‘Coming of Age’ is one of the heavier tracks on the album, although describing any of the LP as heavy is probably taking things a bit too far. It’s upbeat musically, with a country guitar jangling throughout. The chorus, which repeats “didn’t see it myself / my coming of age”, further adds to the wistful nature of the album. On her Web site, Jacklin tackles this topic: “When I was growing up I was so ambitious: I’m going to be this amazing social worker, save the world, a great musician, fit, an amazing writer. Then you get to mid-20s and you realise you have to focus on one thing”.
A standout track is ‘Leadlight’, where Jacklin really shows off her melodic voice, gentle at times, then soulful and uplifting at others. It’s a stripped-back track, with just a steady drum and guitar at times, then swelling to include a choral accompaniment towards the end. Much like this is ‘Hay Plain’, which also builds up throughout the track after a soft start, but finishes just as gentle as it begins. The song has me missing a life that I haven’t even lived, as Jacklin transports you into the story she’s telling.
Similarly low-key is title track ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’, which features just Jacklin’s voice and a guitar as she sings nostalgically about valuing time with family and friends. It’s a sweet and sentimental track.
The whole album is easy listening but will also get you thinking about the carefree days of your youth if you feel like you’re already past them. Or hopefully make you appreciate them even more if you’re still living them. It can be comforting at times to realise that other people have the same doubts about getting older or, as Jacklin puts it, “yeah, we’re getting older, but it’s not so special. It’s not unique”.
‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’, Julia Jacklin’s debut album, is out now on Transgressive Records. Jacklin has a bunch of upcoming dates in her native Australia and New Zealand, until February where she’ll hit Europe, including dates in Germany and the UK. All dates can be found listed on her Web site, and her UK ones are listed in this previous post. For more coverage of Jacklin here on TGTF, go here.
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